The United States Navy’s newest submarine is the USS Washington (SSN-787). It is the third ship named for the state of Washington and the first one since World War II. One of the first official functions of a submarine pre-commissioning unit is to develop the ship’s own distinct coat of arms – or crest – which reflects the heritage embodied in the ship’s namesake. Unique in design for each ship, the crest represents the ship’s identity throughout its service life and helps foster unity and esprit de corps.
Their central image is the submarine, surging forth from the waters of the Puget Sound, emblazoned with a paint scheme reminiscent of Native American art depictions of an orca whale, the state’s official marine mammal. The Tlingit Legend of Eekoli (Blackfish, Killer Whale, Orca) has particular significance to submariners as marine hunters of the deep. The crew takes their nickname from this design, Blackfish. And has adopted the Blackfish as their Totem.
EEKOLI (WHALE) THE LEGEND OF THE BLACKFISH
Blackfish is an important medicine animal to the First Nation tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast and are considered a particular symbol of power and strength. Catching sight of one isconsidered a momentous omen. Tlingit were accomplished whale hunters but viewed the killer whale as a special protector of humankind and never hunted. The Kwakiutl tribes believed that the souls of marine hunters turned into killer whales upon their death, just as the souls of forest hunters turned into wolves. For this reason, there were a number of special rituals regarding the killing of a killer whale, so that its spirit could be reborn as a human once again.